The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 108 - The cycle of worldly existence

Lomaharṣaṇa said:

1. After hearing about the path of Yama and the tortures in the hells the excellent sages asked Vyāsa again to clear their doubts.

The sages said:

2-3. Who is the ally of a man? (Can it be) his father, mother, son, preceptor, kinsmen and relatives or friends? People leave off their houses and the bodies like a log of wood or a lump of clay. They go to the other world. Who follows them?

Vyāsa said:

4-6. O brahmins, man is born alone and alone he dies. Alone he surmounts difficulties and alone he faces adversities with no one to assist him.

Father, mother, brother, son, preceptor, kinsmen, relatives and friends—all appear to cry for a short while. Then they leave off the dead body like a log of wood or a lump of clay. They turn their faces away.

7. The body is left off by them. But Dharma alone follows him. Hence Dharma is the ally. It should always be resorted to by men.

8. A creature equipped with Dharma will attain the greatest heavenly goal. Similarly, one defiled by sins attains hell.

9. Hence, the wise one should not be delighted by riches acquired through sins. Dharma alone has been described as the sole ally of men.

10. Even a well-read man commits unworthy acts on being deluded by covetousness for wealth of others. He may commit sins due to greed, delusion, sympathy or fear.

11. Virtue, wealth and sensual pleasure are the three objectives that a living man strives after. These three should be acquired after avoiding sins.

The sages said:

12. The virtuous words of Your Holiness have been listened to. They are greatly conducive to our welfare. Now we are inclined to know about this assemblage (of parts) called body.

13. The dead body of men becomes subtle. It passes into an unmanifest state. It reaches a state where it cannot be seen. How does Dharma follow it?

Vyāsa said:

14. The earth, wind, ether, water, fire, mind, intellect, soul—all these collectively see Dharma always.

15. They are the witnesses unto all living beings by day or by night. Along with these, Dharma follows the individual soul.

16. O excellent brahmins, the skin, bone, flesh, semen and blood all these leave off the body bereft of living soul.

17. Then the individual soul equipped with Dharma attains happiness, both in this world and in the other world. What else shall I tell you?

The sages said:

18. How Dharma follows (the soul) has been indicated by Your Holiness. We wish to know how semen begins to function.

Vyāsa said:

19-21. The divine beings who are stationed in the body, (the elements) earth, wind, ether, water, fire, and mind, partake of the cooked rice (the food intake). O brahmins, when they are satiated, when the five elements with the mind as the sixth are contented, the great energy, the semen, is generated. It is the pure Ātman.

Thereafter, O brahmins, by the union of woman and man the foetus develops. Thus everything has been recounted to you. What else do you wish to hear?

The sages said:

22. O revered one, you have told how an embryo is formed. Please let us know how a person comes into being.

Vyāsa said:

23. When the soul is enveloped by the elements he comes into being. When the elements separate he dies.

24. When he is enveloped by the elements, he comes to life again. Then the presiding deities of the elements watch his good and evil deeds. What else do you desire to hear?

The sages said:

25. Bereft of skin, bones, flesh and devoid of the elements too where does the being station himself and experience joys and sorrows?

Vyāsa said:

26. The being enveloped by his Kārmic Saṃskāras enters the womb of the mother when he is born in course of time.

27. (After death) the being undergoes suffering and torture at the hands of the attendants of Yama. He enters the cycle of births and deaths, attended by misery and distress.

28. O Brāhmaṇas, the jīva enjoys the fruits of action which he performed during his worldly existence.

29. If his actions are pious throughout his existence, he will enjoy pleasures as a man during the course of his life.

30. But, if while doing acts of piety, he takes recourse to impious deeds, he gets joys and sorrows succeeding each other.

31. If his activities are absolutely unholy, he goes to Yama’s region (Hell) where he suffers misery and distress and therefore, is born in lower species as a beast etc.

32. Now, listen, in which particular life or existence, a deluded person is born and for what action of his.

33. It is recorded in the holy treatises—Śāstras and Vedas—that the dreadful world of Yama is interlinked with the world of mortals.

34. O Brāhmaṇas, there are spots as holy as celestial regions. These are progressive and specially designed for the mortals.

35. O Brāhmaṇas, in the world of Yama which equals the world of Brahmā, the jīva, bound by the fast chains of his actions reaps the fruits thereof.

36. I shall, now, tell you about those actions which cause a person to assume an ugly form.

37. A Brāhmaṇa though well versed in the Vedas is born as an ass if he receives charity from a fallen person.

38. O Brāhmaṇas, he is born and lives as an ass for full fifteen years. Dying as an ass he becomes a bull and in the form of a bull he lives for seven years.

39. Dying as a bull, he is born a Brahma-Rākṣasa and in the form of a Brahma-Rākṣasa he lives for three months. Then he is born a Brāhmaṇa.

40. If he officiates at a sacrifice performed by alow person, he is born a worm and in the form of a worm he lives for fifteen years.

41-43. Released from the form of worm he is born an ass and in the form of an ass he lives for five years; in the form of a cock for five years; in the form of a jackal for five years; then he is born in the form of man; then a jealous person; then an animal. On betraying confidence he is born a fish.

44. He remains in that form for eight years. Then he is born a fawn, O Brāhmaṇas. He remains in that form for four months. Then he is born a goat.

45. He remains in that form for one year. Then he is born as an insect, then a man.

46-47. He who steals unwittingly rice, sesamum seeds, bean, gram, linseed, chick-pea, legumimus seed, kidney bean, wheat, lamp or other corns, is born a rat, O noble sages.

48-50. Afterwards, he is born as a boar. As soon as born, he dies of some disease. Then, afterwards, he becomes a dog, then a dumb person, then again a dog for five years. Then in the form of man he copulates with another man’s wife and is born as a wolf, then a dog, a jackal, a vulture, a snake or a tiger, a heron, a crane.

51. He who out of delusion, with a guilty mind, seduces the wife of his brother is born a male cuckoo and remains in that form for a year.

52-54. Overpowered by the sex-instinct, if he seduces the wife of his friend or preceptor or the ruling monarch he is born as a boar and remains in that form for five years, as a crane for ten years, as an ant for three months, as a worm for a month. Having passed through these births he is born as a worm. He lives in that form for fourteen years.

55-57. When his sins are exhausted he is born as a man. If a person consents to wed his daughter to a youth but then changes his mind and intends to give her to another person, if a person, being stupid, acts contrarily to the wishes of his preceptor, he enters three wombs. O Brāhmaṇas, first of all, he is born as a dog, then a carnivorous demon, then an ass. Passing through these forms, he is born a Brāhmaṇa.

58-60. If a pupil, prone to sinful deeds, sexually approaches the wife of his preceptor, not actually but mentally, he is born, by the perversity of his sinful mind, a dog. He lives in that form for full one year. Then after death he is born in the form of a Brāhmaṇa.

61. If a preceptor kills his pupil who is no less than his son without any rhyme or reason, but just at his own sweet will, he is born in the form of a ferocious animal.

62-63. Being a son if he disregards his parents, O Brāhmaṇas, he is born an ass. As an ass he lives for ten years. Then he is born a thief and lives as a thief for a year.

64. He with whom his parents are angry or he who is not attentive to the instructions of his teacher is born an ass.

65. As an ass he lives for two years. As a cat he lives for seven months, then he is born as a man.

66-67. If he reproaches his parents he is born as a female parrot. If he strikes his parents he is born as a porcupine. He lives in that form for three years. Then he is born as a snake. He lives in that form for six months. Then he is born as a man.

68. If he joins the king’s service but is in league, he, the deluded one is born a monkey. He remains a monkey for ten years, as a rat for seven years, as a dog for six months. Then he is born a man.

69-70. He who mis-appropriates a deposit goes to hell. Then passing through a series of births and deaths he is born a worm.

71-72. O Brāhmaṇas, he remains for fifteen years in that form. When the consequences of his evil deeds are exhausted he is born a man. IF otherwise he is born a worm. O best of brāhmaṇas, he lives in that form for thirteen years.

73. When he is released from the results of his unrighteous deeds he is born a man.

74-77. If he fails to perform rites due to manes or deities, if he does not offer libations of water or balls of rice to the deities, he is born a crow. He remains in that form for one hundred years, then he becomes a cock. He is born as a snake and remains in that form for a month. He is born a man. He who disregards his elderly brother, who is no less respectable than his own father, is born a heron. He lives in that form for ten years. Then he is born a cakora bird, then a man. If a Śūdra approaches a Brāhmin woman he is born a worm.

78-80. Then he is born a boar. As soon as born he dies of a disease, O Brāhmins. As a result of his sinful acts he becomes a dog. When the fruits of his acts are exhausted he becomes a man. He generates progency from the womb of a woman. Then he is born a rat. O Brāhmaṇas, as an ungrateful wretch he goes to the region of Yama.

81. He is bound by the cruel agents of Yama who beat him with canes, clubs, tridents, fire-sticks.

82. He suffers from various sorts of pains in hell, coming in contact with leaves as sharp as swords, or in hell full of hot sands, or in hell where the wicked are tortured with sharp swords.

83-84. He undergoes sufferings and is born as a worm. He remains in that form for fifteen years. He then enters the womb but dies there.

85-93. He then undergoes a series of births and deaths. He then becomes an animal. Then he undergoes suffering for a number of years. Then he is born as a tortoise. By stealing curd he is born a crane or a frog; by stealing unroasted fish he is born a honey-bee. By stealing fruits, radish or sweet bread he is born an ant. By stealing corn he becomes a rat. By stealing rice boiled in milk he is born a partridge; by stealing powdered bread he is born an owl. By stealing water he is born a crow; by stealing copper he is born a pigeon. By stealing silver vessel he is born a dove. By stealing gold vessel he is born a worm. By stealing silk garment he is born an osprey. By stealing a silken upper garment he is born a parrot. By stealing a lower silken garment he is born a swan.

94-98. By stealing a cotton cloth he is born a heron. By stealing a woollen or a silken cloth he becomes a hare or a peacock. By stealing red cloth he is born a cakora. By stealing paints and perfumes, a greedy person is born a musk-deer. He lives in that form for fifteen years. After exhausting the fruits of his wicked actions he is born a man. By stealing milk he is born a crane. By stealing oil he is born a tailapāyī (?) (the drinker of oil).

99-104. If a person with weapon kills one with no weapons for monetary gains or out of enmity he is born an ass. He lives in that form for two years; he is then killed by weapons. He is born in the form of a deer and suffers from grief. He lives in that form for a year and is then killed. He then becomes a fish and is caught in the net. He is then born a tiger. In the form of a tiger he lives for ten years. Then after death, when the fruits of his karmas are exhausted and he is awakened intellectually he is born as a man.

105-114. By stealing musical instruments he is born hairy. By stealing food inclusive of oil-cake he is born a brown hairy rat biting people. By stealing butter he is born a crow or a low-class person. By stealing the flesh of a fish, he is born a crow. By stealing salt he is born a cricket. By denying or misappropriating deposit he is born a fish. Born a man, he commits sin after sin. Then after his death he is born an animal. He does not know what Dharma is nor about the right means of knowledge. He who commits sin after sin and discards vows is struck by grief and suffers from disease or is reduced to a naked state or degraded to a low caste. This is said of those who are of sinful character, greedy and passionate.

Those who do not commit sins since their very birth remain free from disease and are possessed of beauty and wealth.

115. Even women in association with the sinful men incur sins.

116-118. O best of Brāhmins, this in brief I have narrated to you. In another context, you will hear more. O revered ones, thus I have heard from the mouth of Brahmā when he was addressing the assembly of gods and sages. I put questions too, now and then. I too have narrated to you in entirety. O best of sages, you hear the same and be interested in Dharma.

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